Beyond the Beach: Where to Make Waves in Prince Edward County 🎣 🛶 ⛵
Sandwiched between Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte, with many rivers and lakes running through it, Prince Edward County is all about water, with more than 800 km of shoreline and tons of H20-based ways to enjoy it.
Here are a few beyond-the-beach ideas for water-playing your way around The County.
(PLEASE NOTE: COVID-19 containment measures are keeping us hopping – new announcements about what’s open are being made every day. Please call ahead to be sure activities are still available. Check here for essential COVID travel tips.)
Prince Edward County was once a peninsula, until construction of the Murray Canal swing bridge in Carrying Place severed it from the main land. Sight-seeing by water offers a unique view — and is just as beautiful as from the land. It’s the perfect way to see birds and marine wildlife up close.
Easy Paddler: Cabin Fever Kayak or PEC Kayaks can set you afloat in a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board. Cabin Fever Kayak launches on picturesque Black River, with only the sounds and sights of nature as your companion. Wonderfully relaxing, it’s an eco-friendly way to explore coastal marshes and bucolic vistas. Paddle the meandering waterway six kilometres southwest into the nearby town of Milford. Head east into the waters of South Bay for a close-up of McMahon Bluffs, a protected nature reserve.
Bonus: Cabin Fever Kayak’s watercraft are made and sold in The County by Demorestville-based Clearwater Design. So, if you liked the test paddle, check them out, and take one home.
Hoist the Sails
Pull up anchor, raise the sails and catch the breeze. Sailing is a fun, often invigorating way, to enjoy The County by water.
Aye Aye Captain: Departing from Waupoos Marina, Stay and Sail offers private and group cruises (up to eight guests) aboard the Tzarina, a 34-ft. C&C sailboat. Captains Moira and Brent offer several cruising options, from a two-hour sail around the waters of South Bay to half and full-day excursions that include anchoring for swimming, snacks and light refreshments. There’s also a four-hour cruise that covers sailing basics.
Not ready to jump ship? Then spend the night, lulled to sleep by the gentle roll of the water, in one of two sailboats that Stay and Sail rents out as accommodation. Both are docked in the Waupoos Marina.
Wind And Water: Try a different kind of sail with AirTime Kiteboarding. The four-year-old company, based out of a private beach on West Lake near the Sandbanks, helps you harness wind power with kiteboarding lessons and rentals. Catamaran lessons and rentals are also available.
Hook, Line, and Sinker
Cast your line – and your luck – into the waters of Prince Edward County. Not only is Lake Ontario a plentiful fishing ground, but the Bay of Quinte – the Walleye Capital of the World — is an angler’s dream.
For Charter: Fish with the pros who know the waters and where and when and what to catch . Meal On A Reel Charters and Bay of Quinte Charters are just two of several fishing specialists who can help you hook walleye, salmon, lake trout, pickerel, bass and perch. Charter season runs May through to late November. Rods, bait, tackle, beverages and food are provided. All you need to bring is a valid fishing licence. For more charters, fishing and boating advice, see our complete listings.
Gear Up: Whether you arrived in The County rod-less, or just need bait, Wilki’s Tackle Box has every angler’s back, from novice to pro, with everything from rods and reels to minnows and worms. Canadian Tire in Picton is a reliable go-to as well. Not only is the fishing-gear department well stocked, but you can pick up a fishing licence if you don’t have one. There’s also plenty of other equipment to float a fun day on the water, from boats to inflatable toys.
Whether you’re a resident boater without a home dock, or a sail-in, motor-up or haul-your-own-watercraft visitor, The County has “boat parking” and several public launches. Pull up to the following locations:
Marina Moorings: In addition to offering public boat launches, Picton Marina and Harbour, Waupoos Marina and Wellington Harbour provide overnight and seasonal docking with access to hydro and water, fuel, washrooms and showers, and pump-out facilities (Picton and Waupoos only). The Glenora Marina is an excellent stop for fuel, rentals and repairs.
Float Your Boat: There are also eight municipal boat launches conveniently located around The County’s most popular bodies of water. Sites include Big Island, East Lake, Northport, Prinyer’s Cove, Rossmore, Weller’s Bay, and Wellington Beach.
Non-motorized watercraft have launching options, too. Many are located in conservation parks, including Massassauga Point, where parking is $5 for the day. Or municipal boat launches, such as H.J. McFarland or Glendon Green, where parking is $10. For a fee, non-motorized watercraft can also be launched onto the Black River from Cabin Fever Kayak.
Ahoy Sailors: Sail into Prince Edward Yacht Club and dock awhile. Located on picturesque Picton Harbour, downtown Picton’s restaurants, shops and art galleries are within easy strolling distance. Guests from other sailing clubs enjoy reciprocal docking privileges.
Kid-perfect: Sand-and-surfed out, but the water-babies are still clamouring for a good soaking? Try the nautical-themed Picton Splash Pad, located at the Picton Fairgrounds, adjacent to the glorious Crystal Palace. Please note COVID protocols in advance of your visit. You can also picnic there, with bring-your-own grub, or grab takeout from across the street at Angry Birds, PEC’s answer to Swiss-Chalet-St. Hubert.
There are also many ways to appreciate PEC’s marine beauty without dipping toes, rods, paddles, sails or motors into the water. Here are a few land-lubber options:
Marine Museum-hopping: Explore The County’s symbiotic relationship with the waters that surround it at two great museums. Located in South Bay, Mariners Park Museum, with its distinctive lighthouse and recreated circa-War of 1812 fort, is home to many recovered shipwreck treasures and tales of fishing, ship-building, rum-running and more.
The Naval Marine Archive: The Canadian Collection in downtown Picton celebrates marine and naval history. The museum houses an art gallery, ship models and plans, books and nautical papers, charts and more.
On The Menu: A County dining must-try is the local, fresh-water catch-of-the-day, often perch or pickerel. And, of course, all food tastes better enjoyed with a side of waterfront!
Check out these restaurants for their beautiful waterscape panoramas, all unique in their own way: County Cider Company (Lake Ontario), Drake Devonshire Inn (Lake Ontario), The Lighthouse Restaurant (Picton Harbour), The Restaurant at Waupoos Winery (Lake Ontario), The Restaurant on the Knoll at Isaiah Tubbs (West Lake), and The View at Picton Golf and Country Club (Picton Bay).
For classic County-caught fish and chips, try the Blue Sail on Main Street Picton, which has a fish market attached. Or Sand & Pearl, voted one of Canada’s best new restaurants by en Route magazine and a smorgasbord of delights from the sea.
By Karen Orme, owner/operator Runaway Rooster